Something to think about introduced by Gavin Thomas.
MULTIPLE SPORT SHAPES WELL-ROUNDED KIDS
Multiple sport means lots of practice, lots of time management, and just a lot of bussing kids around to practice, games, and tournaments. The big question though is should kids play and specialize in one sport or multiple sport?
The need for kids to play one sport and get good at it started with college overcrowding. As colleges were becoming overcrowded, one of the popular ways to get into college was through sports. This helped set the stage for pay to play, year around sports, single sport participation, and kids starting to play sports at a very young age. The problem is, there are limited college scholarships and the importance placed on youth sports is increasing the need for kids to specialize in one sport and be the best.
Unfortunately, this is preventing our youth from learning other sports and the opportunity to experience the dynamics of different sports. As a result, they are NOT developing diverse skills, such as muscles and physical skills, or the brain and mental skills. So, our kids are not as well-rounded and are taking on more mental struggles, and don’t have the skills to deal with those challenges.
When a kid plays one sport, it tends to feel like a lot of pressure. Why? Their identity hinges on that one thing. If they fail at it, what do they have left? If they fail at it, they’ve failed as a person. That is why the pressure to be astronomically good is on the rise – it means more than ever before. Kids put a lot of time and energy into it which increases the pressure to be ‘perfect’ at it and if they fail, games over.
Besides an increase in pressure, this environment brings out vast amounts of anxiety, doubt, fear, and negativity. Much of this stems from the need for kids to feel like they must be perfect. If I am perfect, I will get into the college I desire. If I am perfect, my coach will be happy. If I am perfect, I will have unlimited friends. If I am perfect, my parents will love me more. Their sport is their ‘shot’ to making it in their eyes and in the eyes of others.
Single sport participation also has a higher risk of overuse injuries because a kid’s muscles are being used over and over in the same way, all of the time. This means that some muscles are overused, and others aren’t being used or developed.
The problem with perfect is it doesn’t exist. There’s no real definition for it and it’s an esoteric concept that only sets kids up for failure. Kid’s brains don’t understand it and are always searching to figure it out. But because it doesn’t exist, kids feel like they are always failing and aren’t good enough. This leads to them not wanting to try or worse, quit. Why try if I am not going to be perfect? It then becomes a cycle of all or nothing. There’s always judgement attached.
Kids need a well-rounded environment to develop into well-rounded people. There is no way for kids to get everything they need from one sport. None of us can get everything we need from one thing. If we could, we’d all be very one dimensional.
Our life is made up of many dimensions and all of it adds to our personality; who we are. If one thing isn’t going well, we have another that is inevitably going well to help build us up. If we have more than one dimension there is always something positive or happy going on in at least one of those environments to keep us going, moving forward, and feeling good. We need to be able to feel good and deal with adversity at the same time otherwise we are left just dealing with the adversity and no one wants to be in that place.
Playing multiple sport not only helps kids to have something to feel good about but there is less pressure to be absolutely perfect at one sport because a kid is enjoying, having fun, and learning skills in more than one.
And how young are these kids? When a kid plays more than one sport, there is less chance of burn out. So many kids start playing their sport when they were 3, 4 or 5 years of age. By the time they are 13, they burn out. Who wouldn’t? That’s a long time to be play a sport. Because they are burned out by age 13, many of these kids don’t want to play their sport in college or beyond.
Skills in one sport helps develop skills in other sports.
Kids usually want to be really good at one sport, but the other sports help them learn how to be leaders and deal with mental challenges that come up in sport. They also learn critical thinking, decision making, and physical skills in one sport that complements the other. These skills transfer to the sport they love the most and other areas of life.
When a kid adds art or music into the mix, they are better activating all areas of the brain and developing even more skills and dimensions of their personality, particularly creativity. All of this is important for sports, school, and relationships when a kid is young, but also as they get older and are facing other challenges in college, work, and being an adult.
Sports specialization does not create an environment that increases a kid’s chance of achieving elite status in their sport. Playing multiple sport and participating in art and music, providing balance, offers a greater chance of elite status in sport.